Social media’s meme-tastic reaction to rumors of Kim Jong Un’s demise, and sister’s likely ascension

Screengrab Korea Now, Kim Jong Un, sister Kim Yo Jong

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The state of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s health remains an uncertainty, with a Hong Kong broadcast network reporting the 36-year-old leader of the hermit nation may be dead, and a Japanese magazine reporting he is in a “vegetative state.”

What is known is that Jong Un hasn’t been seen since he underwent heart surgery earlier this month, and Reuters reported Friday that China dispatched a team that included medical experts to North Korea as speculation swirled over his health.

The Japanese magazine Shukan Gendai reported that Kim fell into a vegetative state after heart surgery, citing a source that claimed Jong Un grabbed his chest and collapsed, and was rushed to a hospital after receiving CPR

A vice-director of Beijing-backed HKSTV Hong Kong Satellite Television cited a “very solid source” to say that Jong Un was dead, and this prompted plenty of memes online as social media is already moving on to his likely successor, sister Kim Yo Jong, who is reportedly Kim’s closest confidant.

Experts believe she would rule with an iron fist, although some in the media warmed up to Kim’s sister after she served as a delegate at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, and was seen sitting alongside South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

The only other family member is older brother Kim Jong Chol, who was passed over when their father, Kim Jong Il, died. In 2017, Kim had an older half-brother killed in Malaysia.

Kim, heavily overweight, became supreme leader in 2011, after his father reportedly died from a heart attack. Kim Jong Il succeeded his father, Kim Il Sung, who died in 1994 of a heart attack.

As he is wont to do, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., weighed in on the rumors of Jong Un’s demise without adding any real clarity.

“Well, it’s a closed society, I don’t know anything directly,” he said Saturday night in an appearance on Fox News. “I’d be shocked if he’s not dead or in some incapacitated state because you don’t let rumors like this go forever or go unanswered in a closed society, which is really a cult, not a country, called North Korea.”

“So I pretty well believe he is dead or incapacitated,” Graham added. “And I hope the long-suffering North Korean people will get some relief if he is dead.”

If he is dead, David Maxwell, a North Korea specialist at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told the New York Post that official verification would surely come from North Korea state media

“When it comes to North Korea you can never be too sure until you hear the news from the country itself,” Maxwell said. “But it’s worth noting that there are 6.5 million smartphones in North Korea now and even though the coverage is within the country, information has a way of getting out faster now than it did in the past.”

On that note, the state-run media delayed announcing the deaths of Jong Un’s father and grandfather for up to four days, according to the paper.

The hashtag #KIMJONGUNDEAD started trending over the weekend… here’s a small sampling of Twitter’s handiwork:

Speaking of Kim Yo Jong, it would appear that her seemingly pretty appearance may have some people duped about what kind of “leader” she might be.

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Tom Tillison

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